Invasive alien species in Canada
With thousands of different plant and animal species, Canada is rich in biodiversity. But did you know that not all these species are native to the habitats where they live? Some of them are “alien species” that come from other parts of the country or the world. Numerous factors are responsible for the introduction and spread of alien species, including
- climate change
- unintentional introductions from ship ballast and along roads
- intentional introductions
- increased susceptibility of altered or degraded ecosystems
Some alien species do not pose any immediate risk and may even provide important benefits. However, many others can cause significant ecological, economic and environmental damage. These species are known as “invasive” alien species.
Invasive alien species cost the global economy billions of dollars every year. This includes the costs of control but also reduced revenues from commercial fisheries, tourism, manufacturing, and other industries. Invasive alien species harm biodiversity by
- displacing native species and competing with them for resources
- degrading habitat
- introducing diseases
- breeding with native species to form hybrids
Their impact on native ecosystems, habitats and species is severe and often irreversible.
Controlling invasive non-native species is expensive, and eliminating them is seldom possible. They are an emerging threat to northern Canadian ecosystems as climate warms and species intolerant of current northern climatic conditions expand their ranges.
An Invasive Alien Species Strategy for Canada
In 2004, the federal government, working with its provincial and territorial counterparts, developed An Invasive Alien Species Strategy for Canada (archived document in PDF format). This national strategy seeks to safeguard Canada’s native biodiversity and protect domesticated plants and animals from invasive alien species. It establishes four priorities:
- prevention of new invasions
- early detection of new invaders if prevention fails
- rapid response to new invaders
- management of established and spreading invaders (containment, eradication, and control)
Since 2004, a variety of complementary strategies focusing on specific sectors or jurisdictions have been developed in support of the national strategy.
Federal, provincial and territorial governments continue to identify invasive alien species as a shared priority. The 2020 Biodiversity goals and targets for Canada include the following target: “By 2020, pathways of invasive alien species introductions are identified, and risk-based intervention or management plans are in place for priority pathways and species.”
Invasive Alien Species Partnership Program
Between 2005 and 2012, the Invasive Alien Species Partnership Program (IASPP) provided nearly $5.6 million to 170 projects aimed at engaging Canadians in actions to prevent, detect and manage invasive alien species.
Note: To view some of these links, you will need a free PDF reader. Download it from the Environment and Climate Change Canada help page.
Environment and Climate Change Canada:
- Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators (CESI): Newly Established Invasive Alien Species in Canada
Links external to the federal government
- Convention on Biological Diversity: Invasive Alien Species
- IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group
- Global Invasive Alien Species Information Partnership
- Conservation of Arctic Fauna and Flora: arctic invasive species
- 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada. Target 11: Invasive Alien Species
- Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010
- Canadian Council on Invasive Species
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